Critical Pedagogy towards a Sociomoral Classroom

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to discover what variables or teacher descriptors yield classroom democracy and a willingness to engage in critical pedagogy. While teachers' gender or teaching experience yielded no significant effect; their age, cultural background, and marital status had a significant effect on their perception of the factors for moving from egocentrism to group consciousness and the advantages of group meetings. Also, correlations were found between the children's pattern for resolving issues and the teacher's perception as well as their own perception.

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The theoretical foundation for this work is strongly influenced by the writings and philosophies of Paulo Freire and Henry Giroux. Critical Pedagogy is a relationship between teaching and learning. Children participating in critical pedagogy go through a process of unlearning, learning, relearning, reflection, and evaluation. The power that these actions have on the students, in particular students who have been historically disenfranchised by traditional schooling, builds character while freeing them to learn. Teachers grow in critical consciousness through testing their own findings with openness to revision. Teachers attempt to avoid distortion when perceiving problems and preconceived notions when analyzing the problems. Critical consciousness is brought about not through an individual or intellectual effort, but through collective effort and praxis. Part of the process approach to praxis involves the dialogical approach to learning. This is characterized by an atmosphere of mutual acceptance and trust as well as cooperation and acceptance of interchangeability and mutuality in the roles of teacher and learner.

According to Edwards and Ramsey (1986) "In order to master the knowledge of their culture and take their place in society, children must learn rules. This is not an easy task, because there are a complicated bewildering variety of rules ... Interpersonal moral rules prohibit people from harming themselves and others or violating their rights ... These rules are considered to be based on group consensus and important to the quality of group life". (p.167) However, these rules do not have to be presented as a narrative "banking system" (Freire, 2007); rather they can be constructed by the students with some teacher-facilitated guidance.

Critical pedagogy allows the teachers to gain perspective in order to evaluate current practices and formulate new directions in the classroom. The major place of critical pedagogy in this study is to allow the young students to begin to develop critical capacities to reflect critique and act to transform their living conditions. In a classroom meeting, students are never powerless and they can act on their own behalf. The classroom is a place where they live for five to seven hours, five days per week. Like Freire, students can learn to prize dialogue and respect the choices of others while having a say in the day-to-day decisions that affect their lives.

Action research is an important recent tool in the broad territory of "teachers' professional development." This research encourages teachers to look to themselves and to engage their students for ways to improve teaching and learning. When teachers engage in action research they want to know if they have "proven anything." Conclusions and comments and further suggestions are welcomed, as communities of professionals band together to develop and improve the dynamic art and skill of teaching. Teachers serve as models for the students showing them how to work together to improve their collective condition. A Latina classroom teacher located in a US/Mexico border city states, "Most children come with a great sense of who they are and who they want to be. They know what they like and what they don't like. Many times teachers want to have a class that is structured so that students are like factory workers. Some prefer to have a class where students sit alone and where talking or any kind of play is punished. …

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